WNBA: Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm look to contend in 2021


The Seattle Storm capped the 2020 season with their second championship in three seasons and the franchise’s fourth title overall. Breanna Stewart made her return after missing the season in 2019 due to an Achilles tear suffered while playing in EuroLeague and was quite phenomenal, being named to the All-WNBA First Team and earning her second WNBA Finals MVP. Sue Bird dealt with a bone bruise throughout the regular season and played in just 11 games but played all six games of the postseason. Jewell Loyd posted career highs in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage. Natasha Howard took a step backward as she struggled to get involved offensively with the return of Stewart.


Potential promise of the Storm

Retooled roster features stars

The Seattle Storm traded away Natasha Howard and saw Alysha Clark leave via free agency, but still feature three All-Stars in their starting five: Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, and Jewell Loyd. Bird may be in the last season or two of her career but is still quite capable. Stewart and Loyd are at the height of their powers and will surely have the Storm in contention.

Future Hall-of-Famer Sue Bird had this to say about budding superstar Breanna Stewart:

“It’s been amazing to watch. It’s been amazing to watch her grow, mature in her game. I think about her rookie year to now and the way she impacts the game, not many people can do that. And obviously the best result of it all is the winning. I think once it’s all said and done she has a chance to go down as one of the greatest of all-time. She’s already in that conversation at the age of 26. So it just speaks to her talent level, it speaks to her ability to continue to get better, to continue to want to get better. She doesn’t get complacent. The winning doesn’t numb her at all, which is obviously a great thing for a young player, she’s still hungry. So the sky’s really the limit. I mean she’s already done things that no other player has done. Winning four times in college is one of those. And it’s just gonna to continue to get better.”

Jordin Canada, Bird’s successor, has been successful as a role player/fill-in for an injured Bird. Canada is ready to go as the full-time starter whenever Bird retires. Epiphanny Prince provides depth in the backcourt.

WIth Howard and Clark gone, the Storm signed veteran forward Candice Dupree and a slew of young, developing talent via trades. Dupree is a stalwart defensively and is a proven threat from the mid-range. Katie Lou Samuelson, Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, and Kennedy Burke were all brought in through various trades. Samuelson is entering her third season while Herbert Harrigan and Burke are entering just their second season. Herbert Harrigan is a defensive talent while Samuelson has the potential to be a threat from beyond the arc.

WNBA Finals - Game Three

The two-time WNBA Finals MVP is primed to continue her dominance of the WNBA.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Financial flexibility

The Seattle Storm will have six non-rookie players on unprotected contracts and zero protected veteran contracts for 2022 free agency. If Bird retires, Stewart and Loyd are the only for-sure signees. Both players will command long-term, max contracts and the Storm’s future is dependent on re-signing both players.

Once those signings are complete, Seattle might be in play for a big name free agent. Among the unrestricted free agents are Liz Cambage, Elizabeth Williams, and Stefanie Dolson. A highly likely pickup would be unrestricted free agent A’ja Wilson.

Seattle Storm v Phoenix Mercury

Jewell Loyd will be in high demand come the 2022 free agency period.
Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Potential problems for the Storm

Unproven depth

The Storm are less capable to handle injuries than they have been in recent years. While the 2019 version of the squad suffered an early playoff exit, Seattle was in contention because Alysha Clark and Natasha Howard were there to step up with Bird and Stewart out.

In 2021, there is some question about who will fill out the starting five. Outside of Dupree, Bird, Stewart, Loyd, and Canada, the roster is mostly unproven and still developing. An injury to Stewart or Loyd that takes them out for an extended period of time could prove challenging for the club’s ambitions of a deep playoff run.

Defensive regression

Alysha Clark was a defensive stopper for the Storm and the combination of Stewart and Howard in the paint proved too much for many teams around the league. Seattle looks good as a team on the defensive end but individual matchups may leave it exposed in ways that Clark was able to make disappear.

Herbert Herrigan could prove to be a “clone” of Clark, given her defensive acumen and her ability to shoot 3-pointers at South Carolina. She shot 42.4 percent in her rookie season with the Minnesota Lynx but only averaged 1.6 attempts. Given Herbert Herrigan played 11 minutes per contest, the hope will be that she shows more as she plays more. However, all of this remains to be seen.

Down low, will Candice Dupree play the No. 4 as Stewart moves to center or vice versa? Maybe Mercedes Russell and Stewart feature in the front court? The front court dynamic will factor large in the success of the Storm’s defense.

Playoff prospects

The Seattle Storm look primed to be in contention for another WNBA Finals appearance, barring any catastrophic injury. There are remaining questions surrounding Seattle’s starting five but if the past few seasons have shown us anything the Storm are in a good position with the players on the roster.

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